The consequence of commitment

We said yes in 2015.

We said yes to leadership opportunities.

We said yes financially to a church building campaign.

We said yes to renewed pursuit of dissolved dreams revived by a gracious God.

And each time we said yes, the paved walkway beneath our confident feet crumbled. Soon our beautiful roadway was nothing more than a dirt foot trail filled with pot holes and stumbling blocks lingering in opportunity to stall progress.

Our normally healthy kiddo, hospitalized during Thanksgiving.

Financial strain we haven’t experienced in years.

Struggling census creating a bit of job insecurity.

Behavior issues with my kids requiring professional intervention.

Turmoil. Pressure. Struggle.

A pendulum of priorities vying for my attention.

Adopting an attitude expecting the unexpected. Waking each day wondering how my well planned life became such a hot mess.

God, is this what is means to say yes to you?

I struggled with this question.  For months. It caused me to pause in writing. It caused me to dig deeper and differently into his truth. It caused me to review my base motives.

And one day, God spoke:

Why are you above the struggle?

Why indeed?

The course of the last few months have shaken the core foundation of my jaded beliefs and caused me to reinforce the cracks with concrete evidence of God’s truth. The truth about who I am and the truth about why I am here.

And seriously, it’s not about me at all.

It’s not about my comfort.

It’s not about living on my own steam.

For a good percentage of my life, I have lived with the misconception that if the call comes from God, it should be easy. Friends, this is a lie.

When we said yes, when I said yes, I told God I was willing to stretch beyond my comfort in order that I could lean upon his strength. “I can do all things,” is no longer a fancy t-shirt slogan. It’s a core belief. Right when life seems impossible and it seems we have nothing left, God shows up in a provisional way time and time again.

I’ve also learned when I have nothing left, God still wants me to give. My time, energy, resources, finances- the list is endless. But it’s his. The calling is still mine.  No one else is going to pursue it, even when I don’t feel like it. No one else is going to type the words he lays on my heart to say. No one else is going to make tough calls on behalf of my marriage, family and home. No one else is performing the hard work it takes to live the life he created for ME to live.

I’ve learned I cannot live my call alone. The people he has handpicked for my life are mine.  My job? Learn who they are. What makes them tick. Discover their love language and encourage them in their own pursuit of his purpose. Above anything, I am learning to be the friend, wife and mother that I want to have.

I have learned I don’t have to know everything. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to allow others into my weakness. Each day, I can look to God and the amazing community surrounding me for wisdom, prayer and strength.

When I continue to give my whispered yes to God from the deepest valley of life, I live life in a way I have never before experienced. I carry my cross to the finish line of faith. I learn the communication work it takes to become one-minded with fellow believers.

Daily, I ask God for my portion and daily I thank him for the grace extended to me as I die to self and increase in his image. Daily I ask for divine appointment, divine opportunity to share his love with those who most need it. I commit to him my whitespace for the day _and then the roller coaster begins. Friends, I don’t want it any other way.

Life without God is not living at all.

The consequence of commitment is a life directed by God – the author and creator of the big picture. The masterpiece I am likely to miss when I am intently focused on the snapshot of the season.

 

Can you trust me?

“You don’t trust me.”

Exhausted, I sit clasping the bread and the cup surrounded by people but feeling empty and alone.

“God, you’re right. I don’t. Help me trust you.”

This has been a long week.

After a few days fighting with a flu bug, my youngest Madi was hospitalized for dehydration.  It was only supposed to be 24 hours.  Compiled with a shortened work week, I was already on sick day number two of a three-day week.

But my kids will always come first.

Yet, as Thanksgiving morning dawned, two days later, her condition worsened.  She just couldn’t get over the hump. Each day I prayed for healing and each day the prayer seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Madi Hosp

It’s in these moments I realize I don’t really hold control.

And it really bugs me.

Suddenly, it’s not about me anymore.

This was the place in my heart God was speaking to.

You see, he had to remove me from the throne of my life so he could take his rightful place.

In a year of big growth, change and opportunity, God had to remind me he was still in charge.  I could whine and mope about how uncomfortable I was, but in reality, it was a thankless attitude. And now, it’s time to rebuild.

So, it’s been a couple of months since you have heard from me.  Here’s a quick update.

Madi released from the hospital the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eight straight days of vomit. If you know me well, you know this is my personal hell. I hate puke. Hate it.

Her condition amounted to nothing more than constipation. What cannot go down, goes up.

True story.

Seriously.  I’m not kidding. My kid was full of poop.

But we knew that already.

Four days later, the washer broke and by December 10th, my kids were certain we weren’t going to have a Christmas tree.

I mean, I didn’t have anywhere to put it.  We had laundry everywhere. I guess we could have strung some lights around the piles of laundry.

(insert sigh)

It was the very moment I stopped fighting for things to go my way and surrendered to the mess that God met me.

He infused me with peace.

He showed me where to start.

He provided resource.

He sent people.

He provided opportunity for service.

What started as a very complicated season turned into the simplest, most wonderful Christmas we’ve had in quite some time.

I’m continuing to learn contentment in wins both small and large.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about that with you as the month goes on.

So, if you’ve made it this far- Thank you.  I know it’s a little rusty but I promise to keep polishing as we go. Today, it was just important to start getting thoughts down on paper once more.

It’s my win for the day 🙂

 

 

 

If I must take a side, I choose Jesus.

I’m watching the coverage unfold with my 12 year old son.  His face bears the same disappointment I am feeling in my heart.

It seems like the battle has officially been lost.  One that I have never really understood in the first place.  We rally on the streets and preach from the pulpits.

With every word and action, the division in this issue has left a gap impossible to bridge. More than anything, I want my son to stand for whom he believes.  However, I want him to do so from a place of dignity and love as opposed to disrespect and judgment.

Because I know behind sin stands a story of brokenness.

And in brokenness, hope can take root and grow.

After posting John 3:16 to my facebook wall, I avoid social media.  The battle still looms.  The words from both sides are strong.  Above all else, I will take a stand.

But to what cost? Who is left to pay the price?

For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whoever should believe in him would not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

In this time of confusion, I still choose Jesus of Nazareth.  Why?

Because I am a sinner.  No one is without sin.  Not one, the bible says. The only person I can change is me.  No matter what I say on facebook.  No matter what I post on this blog, I can only change me.

I believe God is still in the business of healing.  Who paid the price?  His son, Jesus, who was sent to die for my sin before I ever had chance to walk this earth.  No prerequisites.  Merely a choice to believe that I can’t pay the price for sin on my own.

I can’t hold a nonbeliever to the same standards I follow.  Nor can I influence their choices without relationship. Love covers a multitude of sin.

When I lovingly confront one who I build relationship with, they see my heart in place of my hypocrisy.

I know that judgement from the church can bring more pain than promise.

No matter how big the divide, Jesus is bigger.  He came to fill the divide.  He came to bridge the gaps.  Even when it feels like I’m losing the battle, Christ has promised victory in the war.

“I urge ,then, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.

1 Timothy 2: 1-2

Service requires an attitude of ownership

I was honored.

Serve Weekend is a huge collaborative outreach effort in our community every year.  Five churches and hundreds of local volunteers tackle projects throughout our town as a means to reach the lost with the grace filled message of Christ.

David & I were asked to lead a picnic at a local high rise.  We said, “You bet”, thinking this would be no big deal.  I can coordinate our volunteer groups, he can grill and we both know our way around the grocery store.  Bring it on.

Then we were given the budget.

Eep.

Let’s just say no shoestrings were harmed in the creation of the budget.  Just the aglets.  Now, instead of calling volunteers with information on when and where to show up, I was also going to have to ask for them to help provide a portion of the meal for over 100 people.

Is it hot in here?

Our life group immediately jumped on board in helping us to create a menu and activity plan as well as being the first to sign up to bring food items.

Aren’t you thankful for those people?

They always remind me that kingdom service isn’t meant to be a solitary effort.

I woke up the next morning still feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing. Deep down, I know God will provide us with exactly what we need but I am the type of girl that likes organization and order.  Not faith with the potential of fallout.

Before starting calls to the rest of the volunteer team, I went to Gods word and found an incredible group of ladies in Luke 8: 1-3.  Their story goes like this:

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;  Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
 In one short minute, these ladies taught me more about the biblical concept of service than a month of sermons.
Their service was driven by what Jesus had done for them, not what they could do for him.  They brought their testimony on tour with Jesus and his disciples.  Living, breathing examples of the power of God at work in their lives.  Driven by demons in their past only to be released to walk in freedom with their savior.  Can you hear their testimony?  Can you see the crowds captivated by their stories?
These women contributed their own resources to help support Jesus and his disciples.  They were invested.  They had skin in the game. Investment equals ownership.  This was no longer just a following this guy called Jesus thing.  They held a piece of ownership in God’s kingdom. They gave what they had to further the cause of Christ to those who desperately needed his message hope.
And now, I’m not so anxious about these calls I need to make.  I’m excited to partner with God in an event that can reach many with his name.  As I talk with each person who has signed up, they each have a story about why they chose this project.
My mother lived there for years.
I live there now and just want to reach people for Jesus.
How can I help? Is there anything more that you need?
Service, with a little skin in the game, brings a sense of ownership to God’s kingdom plan.  It changes the way we think.  It changes the way we talk.  It generates excitement.  This is no longer a picnic sponsored by my church.  This picnic is now a collaboration between Christ’s church and his people saying, “Yes God.  Use me and all I have to further your name in my community.”
Can you pray for us in the week to come?  Serve will happen this Saturday, June 27th.  It’s God’s chance to shine through his people.  We pray for his provision and lots of opportunity to share his message of hope and grace to those who may need to hear it and claim it for their own lives.

Despite all evidence surrounding you; you’re not alone.

How pathetic am I?

It’s my only thought as I sit on an acute care bed with a nebulizer treatment hard at work and a throbbing pain in my right lower back, courtesy of the steroid shot I had just received for an exacerbated asthma condition.

Apparently, I am more allergic to Tennessee than my home state of Illinois.

After fighting a nagging cough for most of the night, I navigated a confusing stretch of roads through the pouring rain to find an urgent care in Nashville.

Here I sit.

Alone.

Fighting back tears.

Wanting someone to come along side me and say, “It’s okay. We’ll get this squared away and you’ll be good to go.”  I full well knew I just needed to pull up my big girl pants and deal with it.  I mean, this is just a glorified Doctor visit.

Yet, in midst of my pity party, I  just wanted the familiarity of home.  Someone to text.  Someone just to talk to in that moment.  I’m in Nashville for 12 hours and I already have the lyrics for my first country song.

In that bright blue room, on that hard uncomfortable bed, I prayed for God to enlighten me with peace and wisdom in that moment.  For the strength not to break down in tears.  My P.A. and Nurse were both men.  I didn’t want to add embarrassment and awkwardness to my list of pathetic.

I prayed for his word to come alive in my heart.  I prayed for God to reveal his presence.  Despite the circumstances, I am not alone.  I know that with my head yet in that moment I cannot make it resonate with my heart.

Loneliness is a common emotion believers often experience.  You don’t have to think very hard to recall stories of God’s people facing isolation and grief.  For me it comes in the most mundane situations:

In daily household chores and never-ending responsibilities.

At a table of virtual strangers in which you have little to nothing in common with.

In the midst of a long, sleepless night.

Walking through the process of pursuing a calling that God has placed on your heart.

How about you?  Can you relate?

As I prayed, Hagar came to my mind.  She was Sarai’s maid given the task of procreating with Abram in order to provide an heir.  (Did she get hazard pay for that?)  When Hagar found out she was expecting and the plan had succeeded, Hagar began to treat Sarai with disrespect.  Abram gave Sarai permission to deal with Hagar in whatever manner she chose.  Sarai chose to mistreat Hagar and Hagar fled from Sarai.

She finds herself sitting at a spring in the desert.  Can you imagine how she is feeling as the hot sun beats down? Lost.  Lonely.  Dejected.  Just needing wisdom for the next step.

In those moments, an angel appears to her at that very spring.  He tells her to go back to her mistress and submit to her.  He gives her a glimpse of the man she bears within her.  He blesses her with future children.

“You are the God who see’s me,” for she said, “I have seen the one who see’s me.”

God. See’s. Me.

God. See’s. You.

Whether sitting at a spring in the desert, a carpool line or an acute care room in Nashville, Tennessee.  God see’s me. God see’s you.

It’s in those moments of abandon that:

God reveals his presence.

He bears the wisdom and resources you need for the moment.

He blesses you when you walk in obedience to the command he has laid on your heart.

“Be strong and courageous”, became the mantra of my heart that day. “For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.”

Do not be afraid.

Do not be discouraged.

Despite the evidence surrounding you, You are not alone.

 

The Prayer Tree

Pause.  A unique and wonderful evening of prayer that is hosted by our Aspire women’s ministry at my home church.  A chance to sit quietly, remove yourself from reality and seek the voice of God.  My week has been so chaotic that it took a while to quiet myself and connect with the leading of the holy spirit.  I went station to station.  I confessed harsh feelings I held toward others.  I prayed for those persecuted and imprisoned for their beliefs.  I wrote a sin that I have been harboring guilt over in a little tub of sand and wiped it away, just as Jesus promises to do when I repent of my sin to him.  After spending considerable time with my worry rope, I wondered over to the prayer tree.  The station assignment was to write a prayer in my heart on a leaf and hang it.  Then, spend some time reading the prayers of the other women left behind.  I was overwhelmed by the weight of the requests:

Restore my family

Help me to be a better mom

Help me find relief from my finances. I’m doing everything I can.

Obedience

Pray for my sister who is fighting cancer

My daily relationship with God

Heroine addiction recovery

I received news of a life threatening illness- healing

Lord, have mercy.  This all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it?  No request was named, but God knows every face.  He knows every name.  He knows every intimate detail of the life represented by each and every leaf.  I prayed over several but the need was so great, I just looked up to God and appealed to him on behalf of each and every one of my sisters.  The energy of the request flowed through me.  It was as if I could feel God charging toward each need, ready to respond in his own unique way. It was a humbling way to apply the teaching James gives us:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

It takes courage to admit where we are struggling.  Even just writing the words admitting our deepest fears, shame and weakness on an anonymous piece of paper at a prayer event can be overwhelming.  But in that moment of confession, each woman received a prayer warrior to come along side of her.  We are instructed in Hebrews 4:16 to come boldly to the throne of grace. When I think of boldness, I picture confidence and assurance.  Expectation of results.  And what should we expect at the throne?   There, we will receive mercy.  There we will find the grace to help us when we need it most.

Is there something we can pray for you? Please leave your request. And, if you don’t mind, leave a word of hope and encouragement behind to another sister who might need to hear it. As evidenced by the prayer tree, we all have something we need to boldly approach the throne with. Let’s make this a safe place to do that.

 

Let us come boldy to the throne of our

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What just happened here?

It’s been a pretty good day! It’s lunchtime. My list of to do ‘s is almost complete. I’m even willing to overlook the fact that today’s prospective move in chose instead to go to glory. My bank account is parched but I have just enough to get my daughter’s PE uniform. It should be officially revived from unexpected car repairs this pay day-just two short days away. I feel like I can finally take a breath. Over the course of the last month, it feels as if the carpet has been pulled out from my feet more often than I can count. I’m seriously ready to catch a break. Physically, emotionally and financially.

(Incoming text): Mom, Mr. Jackley says I need a $20 bill for class tomorrow for my driving permit. I didn’t know about it until today but he says I have to bring it tomorrow.

This is it. The straw that breaks the camels back. I sit in my car drowning in hopelessness. Officially empty. Completely embarrassed and ashamed that I have to tell my kid that the $20 or the PE uniform would have to wait for Friday. And, to be honest, I’m angry. In that moment, I remember King David’s authenticity in his darkest and most desperate moments. David didn’t worry. He authentically went to God with desperate expectation and handed his problems fully to God. I remember my promise to go to God with the same authenticity.

“God”, I prayed aloud, “you want authenticity? Well here it is. I have nothing left. I’m spiritually and emotionally empty. I have no physical resources available and life just so happens to be nickel and diming me every chance it gets. I’m doing everything you have told me to do.  I’m tithing. I’m chasing hard after the dream of writing you have placed on my heart in the midst of my overwhelmed life. I’m taking care of my body-eating right and exercising. What more do you want from me? God, I have nothing left. I need you to meet me here and handle this. I don’t know what else to do. ”

(Incoming text:) Mom. Never mind. Mr. Jackley was confused. I don’t need the $20 since I’m not 15 yet.

Hmph. Well okay. Uh, Thanks? I’m still annoyed but I thank you for taking care of this for me.”

In the moments that follow as I drive back to work, peace about my circumstance begins to settle in. Confidence that God is piecing together each and every thing I need  between now and  pay day.  As I read my devotion this verse stood out as the psalmist describes God’s righteous people:

They will have no fear of bad news; their hopes are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 113:7)

I prayed in that moment for God to help me build up my trust in him. To enhance my belief in his unlimited ability to provide  for my every need. To convince me of his unfailing love for me. An unconditional life changing love. That my focus would be removed  from my own worry and weakness and transferred to his mighty strength and power.  That when bad news comes, and it will, my heart would be steadfast and I would trust in him.